What Role Should Police Play in Preventing Traffic Deaths? | Atlantic Cities
New York Police Department commissioner Ray Kelly often cites the decline in homicides in New York City as one of his signature achievements. When he appeared at The Atlantic's CityLab summit this week, he was eager to discuss the use of surveillance technology and to promote his department’s success in reducing overall crime rates.
But when asked about what his department could do to reduce traffic fatalities in the city, he didn’t have a lot of answers.
Last year, even as the city’s homicide rate continued to fall, traffic deaths went up, and 148 pedestrians died in traffic crashes on the city’s streets, as did 18 people riding bicycles. In New York, unless drivers flee the scene of a fatal crash or test positive for drugs or alcohol, they are rarely charged with any crime, regardless of what traffic regulations they were violating at the time. "No criminality was suspected" is a phrase that has become grimly familiar to street safety advocates.
Even as the Bloomberg administration has moved decisively to give more street space to pedestrians and people on bikes, the NYPD has been slow to change its windshield perspective, only this springbeginning to reform the way it investigates crashes that result in serious injury or death. And Kelly, now on his way out of the commissioner’s job, doesn’t appear inclined to rethink the way he’s been approaching the problem.
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